Photographers try to show us something in a different way as in Ruth Bernhard’s, “Life Savers”, or an object that we may just walk by such like Egglston’s, photo of a tricycle.
Susan shows us the sculptural form that is the horse.
Would you please tell us a little about yourself ?
I grew up in upstate NY, where my family had a summer cottage on Lake Ontario and the Daily boys lived next door. They both worked at the local track and use to come by and give hot tips to my father.
It seemed thrilling. I longed for a horse and finally, when I was 16 my father told me he would buy me a horse. By then, of course, I wanted a car…smart man my father. I think I was the only Jewish girl in Rochester, New York, that rode horses when I was little.
My sister had the art room and I was pre-destined to be the student. I was given books by the stacks to read and of course I was expected to go to college. I went to graduate school at the San Francisco Art Institute 1983–85, and I remember in one of the first critiques, my teacher Larry Sultan told me I was a filmmaker not a photographer, and I went home and cried. I had always just wanted to be a photographer, but my work although allegorical and mythological at the time was involved in dressing up many women in white or black and trying to tell stories. During graduate school I drifted over to the filmmaking department and was inspired to start making my own films by a man named Phil Greene, who made documentaries. It was the frame that got me and how in a sequence of moving images one could build a narrative that seemed powerful and succinct. While professionally immersed in film, I have often found myself returning to still photography, drawing inspiration from the motion studies of Eadweard Muybridge, and often printing the images I captured in the order that they were taken.
What first brought you to photography?
I was in New York and my hairdresser was a photographer/filmmaker and he showed me works by Henri Cartier-Bresson and his own work. Just then I took a trip across
country, borrowed my sister’s camera and got to Colorado and there was a white-out blizzard. I saw some sheep in a circle and I started to photograph. Later in California, I would sit in on Ruth Bernard’s critiques.
Would you share how you go about editing?
The world of photography is now extremely inclusive. Art really is not a question to be answered, but a mystery to be explored and it is limitless and that’s the problem or maybe that’s what is so intriguing about it.
Editing is a huge part of photography and so very important. My favorite morning used to be sitting down with a stack of contact sheets and coffee. Now it’s Lightroom and coffee.
As a filmmaker, I’m drawn to grids and sequencing, time and motion based ways of construction that have always informed my work.
Which photographers and other artist work do admire?
While professionally immersed in film, I have often found myself returning to the still photography of Keith Carter, Sara Moon and I draw inspiration from the motion studies of Muybridge. I adore Robert Rauschenberg, William Kendridge.
What makes a great photograph in your view?
Showing us something we haven’t seen before.
What challenges do you face as a photographer?
I take on a project that I don’t know much about and try to explore it in every way I can. It’s not just “Oh, now I’ll photograph horses because I used to read horse books and had forty-five plastic horses in my room growing up”—which is true by the way—but “What can I learn from the horses themselves? And how many ways can I explore this subject matter crossing mediums and without boundaries?”
How did the series ” Torso” come about?
I wanted to take the horse out of the romantic into a more abstract painterly work.… I think of the torso as a canvas-alive and ever-changing.
Would you tell us about your workspace?
I live in a remote area. My workspace is a huge open studio space where I have many projects going at the same time and I can mess up and leave it .
How does your art effect the way you see the world?
There is something in the idea of the horse that evokes what I feel we as humans have lost: our connection to spirit, sense of wildness, and our spontaneity.
In the horse we see our sacred history and our passage through time. Horses take us into our own dim past and show us our darker self.
If no one else saw your work would you still create it?
I don’t think about who sees my work.
Is there another type of photography or subject matter you would like tackle?
I’ve always been fond of portraits. I always wanted to be a fashion photographer.
Any advice or just a statement you would like to share with us?
It is important to see what is invisible to others. If my work leaves an image on the mind, something has been accomplished.
Thank you Susan for sharing your art and your time.
Thank you Susan for sharing your work. To learn more about the work of Susan Friedman please visit her site at, Susan Friedman.